John Robert Fox MOH

b. 18/05/1915 Cincinnati, Ohio. d. 26/12/1944 Sommocolonia, Italy.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 26/12/1944 Sommocolonia, Italy.

John R Fox MOH

Fox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 18, 1915, the eldest of three children. He was raised in Wyoming, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University. He transferred to Wilberforce University, participating in ROTC under Captain Aaron R. Fisher, a highly decorated World War I veteran. Fox graduated with a degree in engineering and received a commission as a U.S. Army second lieutenant in 1941.

During World War II, Fox was in the 92nd Infantry Division, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a segregated African American division. Lt. Fox was a forward observer of the 598th Artillery Battalion, supporting the 366th Infantry Regiment of the division. On December 26, 1944, Fox was part of a small forward observer party that volunteered to stay behind in the Italian village of Sommocolonia, in the Serchio River Valley. American forces had been forced to withdraw from the village after it had been overrun by the Germans. From his position on the second floor of a house, Fox called in defensive artillery fire. As the Wehrmacht soldiers continued attacking, Fox radioed the artillery to bring its fire closer to his position, eventually ordering to fire directly on his position.

The soldier who received the message, Fox’s close friend, Lt. Otis Zachary (1917–2009), was stunned, knowing that Fox had little chance to survive, but Fox said, “Fire it! There’s more of them than there are of us. Give them hell!” The resulting artillery barrage killed Fox and approximately 100 German soldiers surrounding his position. Fox’s sacrifice gained time for U.S. forces to organize a counterattack. The village was recaptured by January 1, 1945.

Fox was buried in Colebrook Cemetery in Whitman, Massachusetts. On April 15, 1982, Fox was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; the initial award recommendation had been lost.

In the early 1990s, the US Army determined that black soldiers had been denied consideration for the Medal of Honor in World War II because of race discrimination. In 1993, the U.S. Army commissioned Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to research and determine if there was racial disparity in the Medal of Honor nomination and awarding process. The study found that there was systematic discrimination; it recommended in 1996 that ten African American veterans of World War II be awarded the Medal of Honor. In October 1996, Congress passed a bill to allow President Bill Clinton to award the Medal of Honor to these former soldiers. Seven of the ten, including Lt. Fox, were approved, and awarded the Medal of Honor (six had Distinguished Service Crosses revoked and upgraded to the Medal of Honor) on January 12, 1997.

A day later, President Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to the seven soldiers in a formal ceremony, but six awards were made posthumously and received by family members. Fox’s widow accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf. Vernon Baker was the only living recipient of the medal at the time.



For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy on 26 December 1944, while serving as a member of Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division. During the preceding few weeks, Lieutenant Fox served with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion as a forward observer. On Christmas night, enemy soldiers gradually infiltrated the town of Sommocolonia in civilian clothes, and by early morning the town was largely in hostile hands. Commencing with a heavy barrage of enemy artillery at 0400 hours on 26 December 1944, an organized attack by uniformed German units began. Being greatly outnumbered, most of the United States Infantry forces were forced to withdraw from the town, but Lieutenant Fox and some other members of his observer party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct defensive artillery fire. At 0800 hours, Lieutenant Fox reported that the Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength. He then called for defensive artillery fire to slow the enemy advance. As the Germans continued to press the attack towards the area that Lieutenant Fox occupied, he adjusted the artillery fire closer to his position. Finally he was warned that the next adjustment would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position. After acknowledging the danger, Lieutenant Fox insisted that the last adjustment be fired as this was the only way to defeat the attacking soldiers. Later, when a counterattack retook the position from the Germans, Lieutenant Fox’s body was found with the bodies of approximately 100 German soldiers. Lieutenant Fox’s gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life, contributed greatly to delaying the enemy advance until other infantry and artillery units could reorganize to repel the attack.



LOT 664-665, GRAVE 6